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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Why You Can Stop Settling for Co-workers You Don’t Love

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Does your Monday morning conversation with your boss go something like this?

You: “How was your weekend?”
Your boss: “Good. How was yours?”
You: “Fine, thanks.”

After the brief exchange, you sit down to work for the next eight hours, even though, in reality, there’s a lot on your mind, and it would’ve been comforting to share what’s going on.

But what if it could be different? What if, instead, you could share an anecdote from your weekend before you got down to business? Whether you confide that your brother’s long-term visit is driving you insane or talk about the killer concert you went to last night, it’s nice not to have to pretend like work is the only thing you care about.

It may sound cheesy to say that your co-workers are your second family, but given the number of hours we spend at the office, it makes sense. And turns out, wanting to genuinely like the people working by your side and feeling like you can be open about your personal life isn’t just about making yourself more comfortable—it’s about excelling in your job.

There’s research to back that up. Writing for The New York Times, Adam Grant believes that workplace friendships have a big impact on both our happiness and our effectiveness. “Jobs are more satisfying when they provide opportunities to form friendships,” he explains. “Research shows that groups of friends outperform groups of acquaintances in both decision making and effort tasks.”

Which is perhaps why companies now believe it’s important to not only hire people who are a fit from a cultural standpoint, but to encourage employee bonding and interaction, even when it has little to do with the actual work.

What does this look like? In more and more offices, it’s OK to work hard and still maintain a sense of humor. You can share a funny article you come across or encourage your team to watch a quick SNL skit when they need a break. Modern workers are encouraged to have a good rapport with their boss or the leadership team, engaging them in non-work related banter or even jokes about the job itself.

Many workplaces even provide opportunities to bond, not just over coffee in the break room, but also during company-sponsored activities intended to bring people closer to their teammates. For instance, Capital One hosts “fun days,” which allow people to be themselves outside the demands of the office, explains Jennifer Anderson, MVP Talent Acquisition. Her team had a field day not too long ago that included a three-legged race, water balloon toss, and other team competitions.

Learn More About Working at Capital One

Of course, a company’s “fun” rating is only made possible by the people, and whether or not you, personally connect with them. So how do you find a group that’s going to make you look forward to going into work each day?

The interview is a great time to glean information about the company that you can’t find online—as well as on the people behind it. You may form a connection in these early meetings, and you can certainly start to get a sense of whether the organization values close-knit teams. How do employees seem to view one another—with grudging respect or with sincerity? Do they seem to like each other? Do they have the capacity to make the job better? Even mundane tasks can be elevated to entertaining levels when you work with an incredible group.

You can also ask questions to paint a clearer picture. What’s the company’s approach to team building? Are there regular social events or group outings that staffers are encouraged to participate in? How often do team members hang out over lunch or after work?

Some companies even go so far as to incorporate bonding in the interview process and invite candidates in for a meal or happy hour with the team—a great sign that they value camaraderie. And while it might feel strange to step out of all-business interview mode, keep in mind that 43% of hiring managers rank “culture fit” as the top consideration when choosing a candidate, and plenty of others say that showing that you have “a unique perspective that enhances the team while also proving you’ll get along with the team” can help you stand out from equally qualified candidates. In other words, you don’t have to feign being a one-dimensional workhorse, because who you are is integral to shaping the workplace community that’s so often cultivated in businesses today.

This, of course, requires you being yourself. As Emma Sagan, a Capital One product manager, aptly describes it: “Don’t be afraid to let your weird out. It’s okay to be quirky and have interests outside of these walls. Make sure that shines through during interviews.”

Sagan’s point is a good one. Starting as early as the first interview (if not sooner via a cover letter or email to the hiring manager), let the real you come out. Open up about your passions. Tell stories that reveal a bit more about who you are. You can’t expect to find a good fit and friends in your team members if you don’t allow yourself to be you from the get go.

But when you do? You’re bound to like your co-workers—and chances are, you’re going to like your job.

This is part three in our “Modern Work Perks” series, created in partnership with Capital One to explore the things that matter most to employees in today’s working world.